Chichester and Bexhill singers join online commemoration of Belgian Resistance heroism

A strong contingent of Chichester and Bexhill singers has contributed to a new online collaboration to remember the heroes of the Belgian Resistance.

Wednesday, 22nd April 2020, 8:45 am
PUSH opera

British performers combined with Belgian opera singers for a new recording of the finale of the Holocaust opera PUSH.

PUSH was premiered in Bexhill at the De La Warr Pavilion in 2016 as a commission by the Battle Festival in a co-production between Glyndebourne and Battle.

It was later performed a number of times in Chichester through the city’s Chichester Marks Holocaust Memorial Day team. It has also been performed in Salisbury.

Now singers from all the UK productions have worked with their Belgian counterparts on a new recording.

Spokeswoman Sarah Ehrlich said: “The Chichester chorus had a really amazing group spirit, organising mass Zoom rehearsals and agreeing to record at exactly the same time from their living rooms to recreate the choir feel! My very rough guess is that Chichester and Bexhill would make up more than half of the 150 singers.”

The recording commemorates the fact that 77 years ago three young men from the Belgian Resistance achieved the impossible, raiding a Nazi train convoy carrying 1,600 Jewish deportees to Auschwitz with just one pistol.

On that night in Flanders, 238 men, women and children jumped off the train transporting that was them to an immediate death in Auschwitz. They were saved by the selfless heroism of the Belgian Resistance who risked their own lives to save others.

“One of the escapees was Simon Gronowski, an 11-year-old Jewish boy from Brussels, who was pushed off the train by his mother.

“In 2013, Simon met British composer Howard Moody and told his story. Howard was so moved he immediately promised to write an opera about Simon’s experience. PUSH tells the story of Simon’s escape on April 19 1943, and was inspired by Belgian heroes from the Resistance and other individuals in Brussels who hid and saved the lives of Jews during the height of World War Two.

“In 2019, PUSH became the first opera to be performed in The House of Commons at The Speaker’s House to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day. Later in 2019, PUSH arrived in Belgium and was performed at the Brussels opera house La Monnaie in the presence of King Philippe and Queen Mathilde. Simon Gronowski, now 87, has attended every performance of PUSH so far.”

Sarah added: “PUSH is a community opera for a large chorus of adult singers and children, performing alongside professional soloists and orchestras. All four productions of PUSH have drawn together a large community chorus from each of the cities in which it has been performed, together with children from local schools and amateur singers of all ages. It is also seen as a model for the future of opera as it actively engages professional musicians with their local communities.

“About 500 professional and amateur musicians and singers have performed PUSH since its premier in 2016 in the four productions in UK and Belgium.

“For the first time, all four casts have united across The Channel to form a giant virtual choir. 150 singers and musicians have recorded themselves in their living rooms singing the finale Ma Vie n’est que Miracles, including soloists James Newby, Sheva Tehoval and Ivan Ludlow.”

The many recordings were mixed and edited together and released on April 18, the eve of the 77th anniversary of the 20th Convoy. The final scene of PUSH is the moment when all the voices come together to express optimism in a dark world.

“The recording will be released on Howard's Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/HowardMoodyComposer/?modal=admin_todo_tour and on YouTube. We hope it will shared multiple times!”

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